Vol. 42, No. 12
In and Around the Bar
The Law Club, 1964–89: The Law Club Matures(?)
by Gregory B. Cairns
About the Author
Gregory Gregory B. Cairns practices workers’ compensation and related employment law with Cairns & Associates, P.C. in Denver. He was president of the Law Club during 2010–11, and gratefully serves as a writer and performer in the Law Club’s annual "Ethics Revues."
The Law Club, a venerable association of sometimes talented and occasionally civic-minded attorneys, celebrates its 100th anniversary on April 10, 2014. The history of this group of fun-loving lawyers is as entertaining as the elaborate stage shows and stellar speeches produced and delivered. If readers have any Law Club memorabilia to share with the Law Club Centennial Committee (photographs, programs, scripts, costumes, props), or if you were a member of the Law Club between 1940 and 1989 or know the whereabouts of such members, please contact Tom DeMarino at (303) 866-5527 or email@example.com.
During the weekend of April 25–26, 2014, the Law Club will celebrate its first 100 years by hosting a gala celebration at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Scheduled activities will include reprises of some of the club’s most memorable (and infamous) skits and songs, memorabilia displays, silly speeches, and assorted tomfoolery. The Law Club Green Book 1914–2013, a formal and anecdotal history of the organization, will be available for free to all who dare read it.1
In an effort to acquaint Colorado practitioners with the spirited history of a club that has been graced with the presence of so many legal luminaries over the years, The Colorado Lawyer is publishing a series of articles tracing the evolution of the organization over the last century. This article, third in the retrospective, chronicles the third twenty-five years of the organization. This era was marked by the "refinement" of "The Law Club Show," major changes in some cherished traditions (including the acceptance of women into the Law Club), and a continued commitment to educating and otherwise serving the Colorado bar.
The Law Club Show Becomes an Extravaganza
In the introduction to the 1989 edition of The Green Book, Craig Eley, who was outgoing president of the Law Club on its seventy-fifth anniversary, reflected on the development of the unique art form known as "The Law Club Show":
I do not know when the biennial Law Club shows at the [Colorado] bar convention [in Colorado Springs] got totally out of control, but by the time I began enjoying them in the mid-70’s they could only be called extravaganzas. Produced by the Grievance Committee, each show strove to be more lavish, excessive and outrageous than the one before it. For some, these satirical musical reviews were the reason for the existence of the Club, and it was through enduring endless show rehearsals that many Club members got to know one another. The play was indeed the thing during this time period, and some of them were of such quality that the Club was asked to re-perform them in Denver as fund-raisers for various charities.2
The Law Club "extravaganzas" during this period lampooned international, national, and local personalities, fads, and events. The shows often used popular television shows and movies for their unifying themes or titles, as illustrated by "Seamyside Street" (1971); "Pasta—The Family News" (1973), invoking The Godfather; "Bar Wars" (1977); "Friday Night Live or Saturday Night Feasor" (1979); and "The Law Boat" (1983).3 Topics ravaged by the Club ranged from abortion to zoning. Sometimes, the topics were legal in nature, but often they were not.4
"The Law Boat" presented by The Law Club in 1983.
There were no sacred cows in Law Club shows.5 "Publicly pillorying the powerful" was a cherished tradition of the Law Club, and many Colorado jurists, attorneys, and politicians were as likely to be lambasted as were national or international figures. Writers of the shows, who crafted new lyrics for popular songs and narrative setups for those songs, were appropriately granted anonymity for their labors:
Future historians will have difficulty determining who wrote which Law Club show songs (not that it is likely that anyone will ever care). The Grievance Committee has always maintained a tradition of anonymity of authorship (at least in the printed program) to avoid reprisals being made against the more acid-penned of its writers.6
The shows not only were unifying events for Club members, but also served to unite those in the legal community who were not members. As Eley noted in his introduction to The Green Book, several shows were reprised to raise money for charities sponsored by or in tribute to members of the Colorado bar.7 The shows also fostered the convivial relationship between the Law Club and the Denver Bar Association (DBA):
In the early 1980’s Law Club shows were opened to any member of the Denver Bar who wished to participate. This was done in recognition of the great support given by the Denver Bar Association to the shows, as well as to the fact that, since the Law Club performs at the bar convention in years during which a Denver attorney is the Colorado Bar Association president, it actually represents the entire Denver Bar Association.8
Akin to community theater productions, Law Club shows generally were well received by the audience. Even so, they were not without their embarrassing moments. For example:
It is incongruous that, with all the work that goes into producing a Law Club show, what most readily comes to mind when participants are recalling a particular show is not its successes but its mistakes. This is perhaps because moments of public embarrassment are branded on the cerebral cortex, while the memory of applause is fleeting. In the 1986 show a dozen members of the Club, backed by a full chorus, were frozen on stage for what seemed like hours when the curtain opened early, during the second act overture. In the 1981 show John Moye, playing a judge, became tangled in his own feet and fell against a borrowed American flag, snapping its pole cleanly in two. And during "Law Boat", the 1983 show, a segment of the risers collapsed, causing chorus members to step deftly from one sinking ship to, some would say, another.9
From 1964 through 1989, the Law Club staged twelve shows for the Colorado Bar Association (CBA), one show for the American Bar Association (ABA), and several reprises of certain shows for charity events.10 As far as Club historians can ascertain, no performer suffered a serious physical injury in any of those shows, but several participants may have incurred fatal blows to their Hollywood aspirations due to their performances.
Through endless rehearsal, members got to know each other and have fun.
The first fifty years of the Club saw the development of certain traditions, such as giving well-crafted speeches on legal topics, establishing rogue committees, migrating to new venues, recording the Club’s activities in The Green Book, purchasing cigars for the membership in the event of a wedding or birth, telling (and re-telling) bawdy jokes and poems, punning, and creating mayhem in dining rooms that resulted in property damage.11 The third quarter-century saw significant changes in a few well-established traditions.
The Lunch Room Committee’s Search for a Suitable Venue
The Club’s Lunch Room Committee was responsible for finding places with the best food for the lowest price, and then selecting menus and otherwise running the bimonthly meetings at the selected venues. This was one of the Club’s hardest-working committees, perhaps because the Club wore out its welcome in several Denver establishments.
In its first twenty-five years, the peripatetic Club migrated from the Albany Hotel to the Adams Hotel, to the University Club, to the Edelweiss Restaurant [aka Alpine Rose], and then back to the University Club. As explained in a previous article, the Club’s early moves were motivated by the need for bigger space, better food, and more tolerant waitstaff.12 In its second twenty-five years, the Club held its bimonthly meetings at the University Club, Denver Dry Goods Co., Daniels & Fisher Dry Goods Co., and the Albany Hotel (again).13
The Albany Hotel was torn down, so the orphaned Club found itself during its third twenty-five years at the downtown Holiday Inn, the Denver Athletic Club, the University Club (again), the Brown Palace, and then, notoriously, at the Playboy Club on the top floor of the Warwick Hotel.14
At the latter venue, certain suspect activities were noted:
During our brief period of lunching at the Playboy Club there was a short-lived crisis. Some members reacted to the permissive atmosphere by bringing beautiful women to the lunches, and introducing them simply as "of our office," without specifying the exact nature of their duties. Fortunately that practice has stopped. Who would want to associate with the sort of woman who would want to attend a meeting of the Law Club?15
Despite—or because of—its brief history at the Playboy Club, the Law Club stayed the course at other less controversial dining rooms at the Warwick Hotel through its seventy-fifth anniversary year.16 The Playboy Club was the last place the Law Club held meetings that catered only to male members. After leaving that site, the Law Club opened its membership to women, forcing attendant changes in attitude and decorum.
The Membership Committee
The Law Club’s Bylaws were amended to allow women to join the Club in 1982. Although many male members wanted to associate with the sort of woman who would be interested in attending Club meetings, the hotly debated vote led to the immediate resignation of a few members.17
Next, the Membership Committee found itself faced with the task of recruiting female members for the first time. Contrary to expectations, women did not immediately flock to the Club, perhaps hesitant because of the picaresque history of the organization. Female membership in committees and at-large gradually increased, however, and in 1988, the first woman president of the Law Club was elected.18
The Grievance Committee
Previously devoid of female talent, the Grievance Committee welcomed Felicity Hannity and Beth McCann as distaff members in 1982. Thereafter, women populated this committee, which was charged with producing the ever-popular and increasingly complicated shows. No female assumed the chair of this committee, however, until 1989.19 Since that time, a woman has been as likely to chair the committee as a man.20
Despite the excitement surrounding the Law Club extravaganzas and acceptance of women to its membership, the Club never lost its focus on another cherished tradition: the delivery of exemplary addresses at its bimonthly luncheon meetings. The speeches ranged from serious ("The Country’s Inflation Crisis" and "Swine Flu Litigation") to humorous ("Alferd Packer—Fact and Fiction" and "Animal Funnies"), and dealt with both international topics ("History of the Israeli Judicial System") and local issues ("The Future of Housing in Denver"). All of the speakers took great pains to present well-organized and entertaining speeches to the Law Club. Without a doubt, many of these speeches have influenced the economics, politics, and jurisprudence in Colorado.21
Other Highlights of the Club’s Third Quarter-Century
1969: "Lady Loverly’s Chattels," a production that bore a startling resemblance to the Law Club Show of 1959 with the same name, was staged in the Denver Hilton as a feature of the ABA Mid-Year Meeting.22
1975: For the first time in Law Club history, the Law Clubbers put their egos on the platter when they recorded "Star Spangled Banter, or 1775½, or Yankee Doodlings."23
1977: The Club staged "Bar Wars or Future Schlock" in front of a giant Darth Vader mask. The audience was pleasurably stunned at the conclusion of the show when someone emerged on stage in full Darth Vader costume, took off his mask, and revealed himself to be federal court Judge Fred Winner—the subject parodied in one of the songs in the show.24
Judge Fred M. Winner as "Darth Vinner" in the 1977 production of "Bar Wars."
1979: One wonders what could be said about a show with the headliner "Friday Night Live or Saturday Night Feasor," which included Father Guido Sarducci, the Coneheads, the Samurai Divorce Court, and commercials for the Famous Witness School and the "Sam Zakham Sock’em," a combination letter opener and roach clip. Here is what the Grievance Committee said: "A cacophonous compendium of comedic, candid and cannibalistic cant calculated to canonize, criticize and commercialize certain characters, candidates and clowns."25
1982: Under the amended Bylaws, Felicity Hannay and Beth McCann became the Law Club’s first women members.26
1983: "The Law Boat," which sailed from Confluence Park up (down?) the rising Platte River, marked a Law Club milestone when new Grievance Committee member Pam Hultin invited her spouse Paul Hultin to join her in the cast.27
1985: The Law Club presented its usual Travesty (oops, that was the name of the show). The plot, which has never been known to thicken in these productions, revolved around moving the Carousel Ball to the Aurora Mall—"The horror in Aurora." Denver District Attorney Norman Early was cast in a role that fit him to a "T"—Mister, that is.28
1986: The Law Club showed its well-hidden altruistic nature with a charity reprise of the 1985 show in memory of Club member Dale Tooley.29
1987: "Whee The People or Constitutional Capers" marked a collaboration between the Denver and Jefferson County Bar Associations. The show managed to include Donna Rice, LA Law, Tammy Faye Baker, Ollie North, and the Reverend Holy Harry Krishna.30
Scene from "Whee the People or Constitutional Capers"— 1987.
1988: Marion Brewer was chosen as the first female president.31
1989: The Club’s Diamond Jubilee event, held at the Denver Athletic Club, included "The Law Club’s Greatest Hits," archives of the Law Club assembled by the "Archeological Field Team," and former president Bob Kapelke’s turn as a human music stand for then President Brewer as she sang "He’s My Lawyer."32
Scene from the Club’s Diamond Jubilee—1989.
The third twenty-five years of the Law Club saw the organization’s biennial Law Club Shows blossom into elaborate extravaganzas that nicely complemented the organization’s well-executed bimonthly luncheon speeches on pithy legal topics. The Law Club showed its civic side by collaborating with the ABA, the DBA, and the Jefferson County Bar Association on certain shows and by staging reprises of popular shows at charity events. The Law Club may have dallied in a questionable venue (the Playboy Club, really?) for a brief period, but it came to its collective senses by allowing women to join—and lead—the group.
The next twenty-five years (1989 to 2013) would see the Law Club leave its traditional role as featured entertainer at the annual CBA Convention, and begin its fabled march as co-producer of the CBA’s ever-popular continuing legal education program, "Ethics Revue." The next installment in this retrospective will trace the history of the Law Club during this period. Look for it in the January 2014 issue.
1. The Green Book has been published irregularly—but reverently—since 1925. It was last issued in 2000. A limited number of copies of the 2000 edition are available for free to those who contact Greg Garner at (303) 866-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Eley, "Introduction to the 1989 Edition of the Law Club Green Book," 14 The Green Book 1914–2000 at 6 (Spark Publishing LLC, June 2000).
3. The Green Book 75-76, 77-78, 81.
5. Eley, supra note 2 at 6-7.
6. Id. at 6.
9. Id. at 7-8.
10. The Green Book 72-85; Eley, supra note 2 at 6.
11. Cairns, "The Law Club, 1914–39: The First Twenty-Five Years of Sense and Nonsense," 42 The Colorado Lawyer 17 (Oct. 2013).
12. Nagel, "The Peripatetic Law Club," The Green Book 37.
13. Cairns, "The Law Club, 1939–64: The Rise of ‘The Law Club Show,’" 42 The Colorado Lawyer 19 (Nov. 2013).
14. Eley, supra note 2 at 8.
15. Marsh, "Introduction to the 1983 Edition of the Law Club Green Book," The Green Book 12.
16. Eley, supra note 2 at 8.
17. Records of the vote regarding the initiation of women and the aftermath are nonexistent (or are well hidden), but several officers at the time (who shall remain anonymous) "remember" that the debate about the issue was highly emotional, given some members’ insistence on preserving traditions.
18. Marion Brewer, a former Denver television reporter, was elected the first woman president of the Law Club. Brewer, "Conclusion," The Green Book 10; Eley, supra note 2 at 8; The Green Book 95.
19. Kathleen Janski assumed the role of chair of the Grievance Committee in 1989. The Green Book 116.
21. Garner, "Introduction to the 2000 Edition of the Law Club Green Book," The Green Book 2. For a complete listing of all luncheon meeting addresses from September 24, 1919 through April 17, 2000, see The Green Book 125-160.
22. The Green Book 74.
23. Id. at 77.
24. Id. at 78.
25. Id. at 79.
26. Eley, supra note 2 at 8.
27. The Green Book 81.
28. Id. at 82.
29. Id. at 83.
30. Id. at 84.
31. Brewer, supra note 18 at 10; Eley, supra note 2 at 8; The Green Book 95.
32. Brewer, supra note 18 at 10.
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